Geelong Library & Heritage Centre
PROJECTS  /  Geelong Library & Heritage Centre

Geelong Library & Heritage Centre

Public Building
Ashton Raggatt McDougall
Project Manager:
Kane Contructions
John Gollings
Emma Cross

Award-winning Melbourne firm, ARM Architecture, completed the architectural design of the cutting-edge facility, demolition of the old library was carried by Bernie Leen, while construction was undertaken by Kane Constructions.

The Geelong LIbrary & Heritage Centre is owned by the City of Greater Geelong, and is managed and operated on behalf of the City by the Geelong Regional Library Corporation.

This is a busy community gathering place and techno-resource centre for residents of one of Australia’s fastest growing regional cities.

Within the iconic domed exterior of the Dome lies a fittingly bold interior. Designed to be both practical and aesthetic, the spectacular spaces are purpose-built to enable a range of uses as necessitated by a modern public library audience – from quiet and contemplative to noisy and communal.

The new eight-level Geelong Library and Heritage Centre occupies the same footprint as the former two-storey library it replaces. Three conceptual challenges sparked the design. We wanted to celebrate the tradition of great libraries, create an ambitious, future-oriented building, and design an organic structure that lets the natural world penetrate the interior.

The building inhabits both the past and the future. Its form pays homage to the ideals of self-improvement, knowledge and curiosity expressed in the domes of great reading rooms such as the State Library of Victoria. But the eroded sphere also conjures a future that is innovative and high-tech.

This sensitive, extraordinary site abuts Johnstone Park, the 1926 Geelong Peace Memorial and the Geelong Art Gallery in the civic and cultural heart of the city.

Our building is open to all these historic influences, including the heritage-listed fastigiate Monterey Cypress trees. We cut away part of the dome to extend the park into the building, a reference to ideas of gardens of learning and to the picturesque early Australian tradition of the beautiful ruin.

“Like a grotto or the entry to Fingal’s Cave, it breaks into a crystalline alcove, allowing the landscape in to its zone. From inside, you can look out at the park not through a flat glass plane but from vantages, from outcrops and crags, that overlook other lookouts. The garden comes into the building, onto ledges and eyries.”……… ARM Founding Director Ian McDougall

The crystalline glass shards of the west- and south-facing walls are like stalactites at the entrance of a cave. They recall the Renaissance tradition of the grotto as a primal space of retreat and reflection but the structural glazing of the façades—with both vision glass and shadow boxes—gives them the highest possible thermal rating. The design adds many boughs to the Geelong library: every floor looks onto the trees.

The digital revolution means computers are replacing books in many libraries around the world but our design reinvigorates engagement with the book as a beautiful, tactile object. The six-metre-high Great Wall of Stories stretches from floor to ceiling in the ground floor. Readers can browse the books from an elevated catwalk, reminiscent of the one at Sydney’s old Mitchell Library.

Visitors navigate the building via a bilingual directions board in English and in Wadawurrung, the local Indigenous language. Where traditionally libraries banned eating and talking, GLHC has elements of the community cyber café. The ground floor has an 80-seat café, a community gathering space and popular books and magazines.

Libraries are increasingly seen as a third place, separate from home and work, and the ground and first floors are proudly noisy. They invite people to meet, talk, play music, drink coffee, and use multi-media. There is a new exhibition space shared with the adjacent Geelong Art Gallery.

Floor one is for children and young people and has a landscaped balcony at treetop level. Floor two is for adult collections, magazines, journals and e-resources and includes a reading lounge and study rooms.

The core of the library, floor three, is quiet. The climate-controlled Heritage Centre houses Victoria’s biggest regional collection of public and private records. All live in a vast compactus and the entire floor is compliant with the State Archives Place of Deposit storage specifications. Its supervised reading room has smart tables and digital microfilm readers

The fourth floor is for staff. The fifth is a flexible function room for up to 250 people with an expansive deck overlooking Corio Bay.

GLHC is also a working display of best-quality contemporary furniture. It is a place to use and learn about the work of nationally and internationally recognised designers. There are no reproductions: all furniture is honest and genuine.

The dome is clad with a geodesic tile array: 332 hexagons in 19 different sizes arranged around a single pentagon. (The skin of a soccer ball works in a similar way.) Tiles, coloured in a palette of four muted browns that complement the adjacent Peace Memorial, are graded in a heat-map pattern to accentuate the crest of the dome.

Ingenious bones structure the building’s skin. The steel and concrete columns and post-tension floor slabs involved standard construction techniques but the eroded spherical geometry creates jagged floor slab edges. Two peninsulas of concrete on the north-west and south-west corners are suspended from the roof via stainless steel macalloy bars.

GLHC incorporates up-to-date best-practice environmentally sensitive design initiatives and has a 5-star Green Star rating.

Features include a displacement air system and in-slab floor heating. Custom-made “clover columns” (shaped like the lucky leaf) waft conditioned air from the ground up. Pipes woven into the concrete screed radiate heat up through your feet. Both features minimise energy costs.

A quarter of the lower-ground floor is devoted to water collection and grey water treatment. The building is powered by a large solar array installed on the roof of the Peace Memorial next door.

A big eave, mosaic-like irregular-shaped tiles, and structural glazing help control the solar load on the building’s western façade. Local contractors supplied about 80 per cent of the goods and services, including demolition and significant finishes.

“The phenomenal visitor numbers demonstrate to us that the project is meeting all of its objectives. It is creating a vibrant hub in the centre of Geelong, further enlivening the cultural precinct; acting as a significant tourist destination; and providing world-class library and heritage services to all visitors.” ………Patti Manolis, CEO, Geelong Regional Library Corporation

Complementing the superb physical space is a world-class service delivered by expert and specialist staff. Whether visitors require help navigating the collection of over 100,000 digital and print items, or advice about using the cutting-edge technology available throughout the facility, staff are on hand to enhance the user experience.

In addition to the five publicly-accessible levels, there are a further three levels which house building services and the library’s administrative headquarters. The lower ground floor contains the bulk of the building services, including water harvesting and storage. This floor also features a loading dock with a dock leveller adjacent to a large secure storeroom and access passage. The sixth floor is acoustically isolated from the rest of the building, and houses the plant rooms and air handling system. The cooling towers are open to the sky and the sustainable mechanical systems are designed for optimum performance and energy efficiency.

The centre’s five public levels are contemporary and clever, with a mix of wide open spaces and smaller, more intimate zones. You’ll find all the library services you are familiar with, plus many surprising and innovative additions.

The ground floor is an open-plan, informal area featuring a six metre high wall of books. On this floor, visitors can speak with library staff, return books, pick up reserved items and enjoy a collection which includes award-winning Australian authors, newspapers and magazines. It is also the place to gather, catch up on news or borrow an iPad. It is a welcoming space and a gateway to the rest of the centre.

An 80-seat café (opening 2017) - including an external deck with terraced gardens - provides direct access to Johnstone Park. This level also houses a 200m2 exhibition gallery space, with a connection to the Geelong Gallery.

Suspended above the ground floor and bisecting the wall of books at its mid-point vertically, the mezzanine provides a vantage point to the ground floor.

A secluded reading area occupies the northern end of the mezzanine level. This level also houses a maker space with opportunities for 3D printing, Oculus Rift Virtual Reality experiences and use of electronics kits.

Level one is a dedicated space for children and young people, and features an external timber terrace, a wet-area activities room, age-appropriate technology and collection resources, and a family room. Colourful and comfortable furnishings, including an adjustable ottoman inspired by The Very Hungry Caterpillar, create a family-friendly environment for learning and reading.

A 100-inch screen and gaming consoles provide young people with opportunities for relaxation and fun. This floor also houses 4 x 27-inch iMacs, 9 public PCs, and 5 children's Play and Learn computers. The floor is home to a Cruiser table (smart touch screen table), Lego Mindstorm kits, Osmo and Arduino electronics kits. The green screen fun often visits this floor as well.

The open-plan second floor houses the library's print and digital collection for adults, presented on bespoke shelving units. A series of meeting rooms along the northern wall contain graphic wallpaper featuring a digitally altered reproduction of Eugene von Guerard's 1856 work, View of Geelong. The western meeting room has a single hexagonal window on the northern wall revealing a view of contemporary Geelong. There are a variety of seating options with distinct geometric forms.

Inspirational, innovative and iconic: these are words with which the Geelong Library & Heritage Centre (the Dome) has already become synonymous.

Symbolic of the evolution of Geelong from a city founded on heavy industry to a centre for excellence, culture and learning, the Dome’s existence is the result of a bold and unwavering vision and represents the culmination of many years of lobbying, planning and collaborative effort.

Sophisticated and technology-rich, this world-class facility is designed to meet the expectations of 21st century public library users, providing contemporary and innovative library and information services. It is also a vibrant gathering space for local residents, workers and visitors to enjoy – a tourist destination in the heart of Geelong’s cultural precinct.

Within the iconic domed building, there are five public levels – all beautiful, inspiring and inclusive spaces for reading, studying, meeting, discovery and fun

Level three houses Geelong's new Heritage Centre. This bold red area is as distinctive as the collection it houses, and includes custom shelving and joinery which is integrated into the space. The public-access area features a large research desk, digital display, reference library, microfilm and PC access, and a reception area for staff to receive enquiries from customers.

The 520m2 secure archive repository houses the majority of the Heritage Centre collection and boasts over four kilometres of mobile shelving.

Level 4 houses the administrative staff for the Geelong Regional Library Corporation which is responsible for the operation of 17 libraries (including the Geelong Library & Heritage Centre) and two mobile libraries across the municipal areas of City of Greater Geelong, Golden Plains Shire, the Surf Coast Shire and the Borough of Queenscliffe.

The fifth floor features a flexible, multi-purpose event space with capacity to seat up to 250 people. High-end audio visual technology and facilities make this the perfect venue for business events, receptions, dinners and weddings.

The domed ceiling is lined with ochre-coloured hexagonal tiles which replicate the geometry of the external domed façade. A large acoustic stackable wall system enables the space to be divided into two smaller rooms. Mirror-finished doors open onto the large north-facing deck with glazed balustrades, providing spectacular views over Corio Bay to the You Yangs.

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Wingback Chair

Wingback Chair

Tom Dixon

A fully upholstered high back lounge chair, inspired by the traditional 18th Century British Gentleman’s Chair. The Wingback Chair is traditionally manufactured. The frame is made from solid ...

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